Earth Observation for the Benefit of Mountain Communities

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Group photo of the participants of the Regional GEOSS meeting (Photo: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD)

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) hosted a meeting to facilitate the implementation of the Himalayan Global Earth Observation System of Systems (Himalayan GEOSS) at its headquarters in Kathmandu, Nepal in August 2017. Representatives from government bodies and key regional and international partners working with earth observation and geo-information in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan attended the meeting.

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO), a partnership of over 100 countries and 100 participating organizations uses coordinated, comprehensive, and earth observation to inform future decisions and actions. GEO defines GEOSS as a set of coordinated, independent earth observation, information, and processing systems that interact and provide access to diverse information for a broad range of users in both public and private sectors. 

The regional workshop at ICIMOD served as a platform for policy dialogue and exchange of technical knowledge focusing on the operationalization of the Himalayan GEOSS Initiative. The workshop sought input and guidance from participants for regional ownership and the development of an implementation framework of the Himalayan GEOSS in line with regional priorities, as well as GEO’s new 10-year strategic plan (2016–2025).

Barbara Ryan, Director, GEO Secretariat, addresses the plenary at the inaugural session (Photo: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD)

At the inaugural session, Barbara Ryan, Director, GEO Secretariat, said that Himalayan GEOSS is essentially about leveraging an international framework of collaboration like GEO and a regional framework for collaboration like ICIMOD for action on the ground. She said that Himalayan GEOSS would help downscale global assets and efforts and connect them for the benefit of Himalayan people to suit their needs. She said that with governments investing in earth observation and GEO, the best way to rationalize such large investments is to ensure that they meet the users’ needs. 

Sessions at the workshop introduced participants to ongoing developments under GEO and regional GEOSS, the SERVIR programme, and the role of the private sector in the implementation of Himalayan GEOSS. Government representatives also outlined national initiatives on earth observation and geospatial applications, and shared flagship projects and developments in their countries. 

Daniel Irwin, SERVIR’s director, shared that NASA and SERVIR have been supporting other regional GEOSS under GEO. He said that NASA is a strong believer in the formulation of a Himalayan GEOSS because it has observed, first-hand, the importance of regional and sub-regional entities, and the added value proposition of such entities in the implementation of SERVIR in the past 10 years. 

Over dedicated sessions, participants addressed the rationale behind establishing a sub-regional instrument like the Himalayan GEOSS and identified capacity development, and the development and implementation of innovative earth observation (EO) and geospatial applications and services. They also discussed the provisioning of a regional platform for mutual learning and sharing opportunities, and regional collaboration in data and information sharing as areas for consideration under the sub-regional instrument. All representatives agreed to support the implementation of the Himalayan GEOSS and commended ICIMOD and GEO’s commitment in bringing it to fruition.